National President of the Association of Christian Theologians, ACT, Prof. Olakunle Macaulay, in this interview, insists that the National University Commission has no right to regulate the activities of theology universities, as the universities are not secular but faith-based. The octogenarian also reflects on the drift in moral and religious values in Nigeria.
What is your impression on the recent tragedy in a Catholic Church in Ozubulu, Anambra State, where worshipers were shot dead in what is believed to be a war between two drug barons?
The fact is that the church we have today is not the church Jesus had in mind when he talked about building the church. The church we have today is not the church built by Jesus Christ or God; things have changed from the first century church to the present church.
The church is not expected to be full of sinners, the church is meant for people who repent, bad people who have been in certain ways of life and now consider it necessary to change life. Today, the Christian leaders are not looking for righteous people; they are looking for people who can support their ministry by fame, money and integrity. In the human thinking, integrity is when you have money and can make noise; so I will not be surprised if this incident is considered or said to be caused by somebody who donated money to the church. It is happening all over the whole place.
The church today glorify rich men and women and forget the poor. For me, the Christian leaders must come and sit down and start thinking. Is this the church of God? Is this the purpose of the church?
Where is the church of God heading to? Jesus said, ‘I will go and come back.’ What will he meet when he comes back? Have we prepared for the coming of the lord Jesus Christ? People will go with Jesus Christ and these are the people that will change from bad to good, people that will be filled with the Holy Spirit, people who will transform the whole world. But we can hardly get them in Nigeria, in particular.
Now, it would seem there is a prevailing atmosphere of insecurity. Boko Haram has returned; we have ritual killers, kidnappers and all the sorts. What do you think is wrong with Nigeria as a nation?
You see, people have talked a lot about many things that are wrong in Nigeria and with Nigerians. I will tell you; we talk about leadership, which leadership? Are you talking about traditional, political or religious leadership? I am talking about religious leadership.
When you are good in the spirit, your outward behaviour will always be perfect, but when you are bad inside, you can’t produce anything, only bad things. I think what is happening today bothers on the morality of the country. You talk about secularity; Nigeria is secular, which is a type of deceit.
The Muslims are not talking about secularity; they are using their Quran to build their nation. Look at all the Muslim states in Nigeria toady. They use Quran and they use even the tax payers’ money to build their mosques.
While we in the south here are deceiving ourselves. Go to many places in the north, government build mosque, and government sponsor Islamic education and build clerics. They practise what the Quran says. Here, we are talking about secularity.
To me, I keep on saying it, and ’am saying it right now. I blame our religious leaders for the moral decadence of this country. When you teach your children well, the Bible says they will not depart from the way. I was born into a good home, a Christian home and I was brought up in that form. I know how to respect people; if you are one year older than me, I know how to respect you, but where is that culture today?
Even in the church, where is the Sunday school? Where is the teaching culture? These days, they go to church to dance, clap hands and collect money. What is happening today, to me, is the collapse in the morals of the nation.
The government is building more prisons, pumping money into building equipment for the military; rather than to spend this money on training people, on developing the moral of the nation, the reverse is the case. If I don’t know how to carry gun, I won’t own one; if I know killing is not good, I will not kill. These are the things we need to bring to life again.
The proliferation of churches has also come with some quacks that were not trained but who brought themselves up as pastors. What has the Association of Christian Theologians been able to do to check these characters?
When you talk about regulating, the Nigerian government is not doing anything. Until you commit an atrocity, the police will not do anything. They will see everything happening but will turn their faces. Churches today-the leadership in particular-are full of wrong, untrained, evil people.
They find their ways to the leadership today to make money, to deceive people. The government know this. People know this and they are not doing anything. Some have converted the church to a sort of hospital where they are illegally taking delivery for expectant mothers; they are killing people every time, and nobody is doing anything about it.
A church is not supposed to be a clinic, but some churches have clinics where young girls of 15 to 16 go there to deliver babies and if they die there, nobody takes action. The Minister of Health should do something about this. There are some clinics, maternity centres that are not registered, floated by churches. Al these things are not good for the imaged of the country.
Do you have uniform theological doctrines guiding the pastoral work in Nigeria?
Theology is not preaching, it is teaching. Teaching is quite different from preaching. If you want to put this on the church, they will refuse; they will say they are not teachers but preachers. Then, with teaching, you must have specific knowledge.
You must attain specific height, specific academic height and this is why we can standardise the teaching profession. But when it comes to the church, it will be very difficult; because in teaching, you cannot say God called you because, to be a teacher, you must be trained. There must be methodology, mechanism and professionalism.
What I am saying is that, even if you want to become a church leader, you must go through assistantship or apprenticeship. You must be under somebody, if you look at the Bible itself, Elisha was under Elijah, Joshua was under Moses.
All these people, even though they do not have formal training, have informal training and they became perfect. Today, we see people go to church; they fight and then they come to build their church.
Kindly appraise the relationship between theological institutions, especially the universities, and the National University Commission.
We have a problem, the problem has been there. I have been talking about it for a long time. I will want Nigerians and the whole world to know that if the Nigerian government embraces God today, that government will have the right to control religion . But a nation that talks about secularity, which is an exclusion of faith, does not have the right to control faith and what it takes.
So, NUC is a commission of the secular government. So, religious or faith-based education cannot be controlled by NUC, simple. I will encourage producers of theological education to submit to any commission that respects and embraces God.
What do you feel about the hate words coming from both the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum and Biafran agitators, which have been heating up the system?
I am a man of God. I don’t know the difference between a white man and a black man. We are Nigerians. I love Nigeria anywhere and anytime. You see, it is suffering that is causing all these problems. There is suffering and the problem is how to get out of the suffering.
As for those clamouring for Biafra, they believe that once they come together, their problems will be solved. But the truth is that, in coming together, they will still lack many things and within the state, there will be problems. I think it is suffering and again, it’s the absence of God in Nigeria. The people in politics are servants but we have turned into laws and masters; now we worship them.
They are to represent us and feed us back and we are to say whether we want them or not. To me, I think I saw some people on TV calling themselves elders of the nation. Let them come. Nobody should fight to agitate for a state or country, we are Nigerians and let us stay in Nigeria as one.
I will rather advise that we should give the regions their responsibility, let them derive benefits from their natural gifts of God, to operate and develop. How do you explain this? Oil in the South-East and then North doesn’t have oil and is enjoying, while the people who have oil are not. Let’s go back to what it was before. Develop the regions and allow the people to develop their natural resources. It will bring competition and Nigeria will be developed.
As an octogenarian, what are your anticipations for the Nigerian society, especially for the younger generation?
I was born in Lagos 80 years ago and I enjoyed Nigeria because our parents cared a lot, looked after us and trained us properly and gave us education and then, moral education. We were brought up to love people and enjoy humanity. And then I want to thank God for my Life.
Nigeria was great powerful and beautiful in those days. There was no discrimination; we didn’t know the difference between Muslims and Christians. By the time I went to London and came back in 1968, in fact there were churches all over the whole place; we had all things, food ready. With time, due to bad leadership, we are forced to where we are now.
To me, I don’t want to say I have achieved anything but I want to thank God for my achievement and I am calling it the faithfulness of God. I want to thank God for directing me, guiding me and making me relevant to my generation. What I want Nigerians to know is that, if we think of Nigeria first, it will be better for this country.
We should think of what we will take away from Nigeria, think of what to give to Nigeria. Let us think of what to give this country and let us think of how to be relevant. Christianity in particular is individualistic and it is personalised.
My advice is that whatever you want to do now and be relevant to your nation or generations, give it to this nation. Let people really know that you are really helping.
I don’t believe in wealth, I believe in comfort and peace. I told my children and they have that too. What you need is living a good life and it is living according to the will of God, not living flamboyantly. I live to serve people and if you do that, you will enjoy this life. People say I am difficult and it is because I believe in what I am doing. If I believe in something, I go for it.